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Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category


Perfect Cheeses for Your Holiday Celebration

The wedding adage about “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” always struck me as a bit silly. But I was recently musing on the phrase while celebrating a friend’s Big Day and thought, “Wow – that’s actually pretty good advice for starting an ideal cheese plate!” Just grab something perfectly aged, something fresh, something borrowed (European tradition, for example) and something…bleu. I’m always looking for delicious cheeses that highlight variety in flavor and texture, and the cheeses selected for our 2013 Holiday Guide are all perfect for holiday gatherings.WholeBoard1

If there’s one local favorite that everyone will love, it’s Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam. This rich, buttery cheese is made by our good friends at Cowgirl using organic Straus Family Creamery milk. It’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser and you really can’t go wrong bringing it to a holiday party.

Redwood Hill’s Cameo, made with local goat’s milk, is a truly elegant show-stopper on the cheese board. Created in nearby Sebastopol, Cameo is studded with cracked black peppercorns and lemon verbena. This lovely cheese is soft, silky, and delicious.

BonneBoucheA favorite among Bi-Rite cheesemongers is Bonne Bouche from Vermont Creamery. Slightly tangy and beautifully yeasty, this cheese is given its distinctive blue/gray hue by its ashed rind and is accented with a mild minerality.

A wedge of Bleiki Alpkase, imported from Bi-Rite’s very own adopted Swiss Alp, celebrates everything traditional about old-world cheesemaking and brings a fruity, slightly nutty flavor profile to your spread. This cheese is a Bi-Rite exclusive and is not available anywhere else outside of Europe!

And for your “something blue,” you can embrace English-style Christmas tradition with the iconic Stilton. This cheese from Colston Bassett, aged to perfection, is creamy yet crumbly, with notes of wet stone and hay.

If you’re having trouble choosing among these excellent cheese plate options for the holidays, we’ve created two Christmas Cheese Bundles – one for cheese-lovers to share with friends and party-goers, and one for the cheese enthusiast who wants to celebrate holiday tradition. Both pair our favorite seasonal cheeses with some perfectly-matching snack and drink accompaniments. Pre-order them online!

Cheesemonger’s Choice: Party Pack – $39.99CheesemongersChoicePairs

One 8oz round Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam

One 4oz round Bonne Bouche

One 10oz jar of Harvest Song Sour Cherry Preserves

1 box Raincoast Crisp Date and Almond Crackers

StiltonBundlePairs (2)Tradition Reigns! “Celebrate with Stilton” Bundle – $44.99

½ pound Colson Bassett Stilton

One 375ml bottle of Niepoort 10-year Tawny Port

One 5oz jar of Bi-Rite Holiday Nut Mix

The Cheesemonger’s Choice is sure to impress, while the “Celebrate with Stilton” bundle brings together the classic and beloved combination of blue cheese and port wine. Whichever way your taste and palate run, we’ve got your cheese needs covered this Christmas. You can pre-order our featured cheeses and bundles online, or come in for a taste! Happy Holidays!


Jessie Rogers

Bi-Rite’s 2013 Holiday Guide: Delicious Menus, Unforgettable Gifts, and More for a Perfect Season!

Welcome to the Bi-Rite 2013 Holiday Guide!

Our Chefs and Buyers have perfected our house-made menus and stocked our market shelves with the most exceptional locally-grown, sustainably raised, and artisan-produced products available. We look forward to helping you plan unforgettable meals and find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list.

Happy Holidays!


Alpkase Bleiki – from our adopted Swiss alp to our San Francisco shelves

I’ve never felt compelled to adopt a puppy, since puppies don’t tug on my heart strings in the same way that they do for most of my friends. But Alpine cheeses are a true love of mine.  So when renowned importer of fine Swiss cheeses Caroline Hostettler launched her Adopt-An-Alp program in 2013, I couldn’t resist jumping in. In an effort to highlight and help preserve the centuries-old tradition of transhumance, Hostettler paired with six Alpine dairies around Switzerland who still make the annual summer pilgrimage up the mountain once the snow has receded and the pristine pastures are alive. By adopting an Alp, Bi-Rite is doing our own small part to maintain these fine cheese-making traditions – and to ensure that truly excellent Alpine cheeses remain available here in San Francisco.

Talblick

Alp Bleiki – “our” adopted Swiss Alp!

Thanks to Caroline, we’re partnered with the Barmettler family in Nidwalden in North Central Switzerland and have received periodic updates about their season.  Each year, the Barmettler family leads their small herd to an elevation of 4,600 feet above sea level atop our adopted mountain, Alp Bleiki. The diverse and pristine pastures on which the cows graze there give their milk an exceptional quality and flavor that the Barmettlers transform into an exquisite summer Alpine cheese. Five generations of the Barmettler family have owned this property since 1869, and this year they took twenty-six cows and ten calves up the mountain where they grazed on fifty acres between late May and early October. Though it sounds idyllic, life at high altitude away from the creature comforts of home is very hard work and certainly not for the weak of heart. Weather at high altitudes is unpredictable and can vary greatly, but word from the Barmettlers is that this summer was nearly picture-perfect. Said Paul Barmettler, “With the weather being so gorgeous, the environment was ideal for cheesemaking and the quality of the milk is outstanding.”

After a summer of grazing, milking and cheesemaking, the cows descended Alp Bleiki between October 3rd and 5th. Now this delectable cheese, straight from “our” Alp, has arrived on our shelves and is ready for you to try. We’re the only retailer in the new world currently selling this fine Swiss cheese, so cheese enthusiasts take note – it’s easy to enjoy, hard to find and not to be missed.


American Cheese Month Week Three – Tarentaise

For each week of American Cheese Month, Bi-Rite Market is celebrating one of our favorite American cheeses. Last week we discussed an excellent cheese made, in partnership with two of their neighboring dairies, by Vermont’s Spring Brook Farm. This week we’re celebrating Spring Brook’s very own farmstead cheese, Tarentaise.

Tarentais 2With its unusual and sexy concave-curved rind, Tarentaise was inspired by the legendary French cheese Abondance, a gem from the Savoie. The first cheese made by Spring Brook Farm, it was originally produced at neighboring Thistle Hill Farm and proved so successful that Thistle Hill cheesemakers John and Janine Putnam partnered with Spring Brook (and the affiliated Farms for City Kids Foundation) to expand production.

Though Spring Brook’s central Vermont locale might seem a world away from the French Alps, Tarentaise and Abondance share a number of similarities. Both are made, using traditional recipes and equipment, with raw milk from cows that graze on fresh grass seasonally and on dried hay in the winter. Vermont even has a number of plants in common with the lower altitudes of the Savoie, including clover and buttercups. However, the two cheeses are made with milk from different breeds of cow and their different production environments and microbes ensure that, while Tarentaise pays dutiful tribute to the old-world cheese that inspired it, its personality and flavor are distinctly American.

This flavor is beautiful and delicate with creamy paste, notes of cooked cream and toasted nuts and a slightly spicy finish. It pairs beautifully with cured meats or with tomato, but is also great on a baguette or enjoyed as a decadent delight on its own. Stop by our Markets on 18th Street or Divisadero, see the unique curvature of the rind and ask us for a taste.


American Cheese Month Week Two – Reading Raclette

For the second week of American Cheese Month, Bi-Rite Market celebrates an American cheese with great flavor, and a great mission.

Jersey Girl

Spring Brook Jersey Girl

Located on 1,000 lush acres in Reading, Vermont, Spring Brook Farm produces beautiful jersey milk that, in combination with milk procured from nearby jersey dairies owned and operated by the Lewis and Miller families, produces Reading Raclette. This mountain-style cheese, modeled after European ancestors, is crafted by cheesemaker Jeremy Stephenson in copper kettles using traditional methods; at 20 pounds, the resulting wheel is smaller and flatter than some of its alpine brethren and boasts a beautiful salmon hue. The flavor profile of this cheese is dominated by creaminess and nuttiness and accented by notes of grass, and the texture also makes it a perfect melting cheese.

 

Lewis Herd Crossing

the Lewis Herd

Neither the Lewis nor Miller farms use silage (a type of livestock feed that can be environmentally toxic), and Spring Brooks provides the dairy farmers with target fat and protein ratios for the milk to ensure consistency in the cheese. Sourcing additional milk has allowed for great availability of Reading, especially here on the West Coast.

Spring Brook is also home to orchards, vegetable gardens and 3,000 maple trees, all of which are part of the teaching tools for their Farms for City Kids Foundation program. Proprietors Karli and Jim Hagedorn were inspired by a trip to England where they encountered a program that teaches farming to children from the city. Once home, they bought Spring Brook and in 2008 launched their own program for 4th-7th grade students from inner cities schools – many coming from as far away as Boston or New York.

The best part is that all of Spring Brook’s profits from cheesemaking go to the foundation, helping to further the foundation’s educational mission.

Swing by the markets to enjoy a delicious cheese and help support a worthwhile cause!


Celebrating American Cheese with Moses Sleeper from Jasper Hill Farm

Moses Sleeper 2 In honor of North America’s delicious and diverse array of cheeses and the farmers, cheesemakers, retailers, cheesemongers and chefs who bring them to your table, The American Cheese Society has designated October as American Cheese Month. To celebrate, the cheese teams at Bi-Rite Market 18th Street and Bi-Rite Market Divisadero are going to give special weekly shout-outs to some of our favorite American cheeses.

As a cheesemonger, I’ve learned over the years that there are certain words that seem either to entice or repel the average cheese-craving Bi-Rite shopper. Categorical, overly-simple, vague terms like Swiss, Pecorino and Brie are among the three that I hear most often. It is for this reason that I want to ring in our celebration of American Cheese Month with a delightful cheese that reminds us that a well-made farmstead cheese can challenge our biases about the quality and diversity of American cheeses.

Moses Sleeper

Moses Sleeper, an elegant but accessible offering from Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm, is indeed a cheese to be celebrated. Named for a Revolutionary War scout, it is made in a style similar to the small-format Camembert-style cheeses that once dominated family farms in Normandy. Made with milk from Jasper Hill’s herd of Ayershire cows, this snowy, bloomy-rinded cheese brings beautiful and meaningful flavor back to a style of cheese that has too often (though not always unjustly) been written off as insipid. Moses Sleeper’s flavor profile changes with age, so when we have young wheels, we celebrate the cheese’s bright, lactic milkiness. In more mature wheels, the cheese has a stronger, deeper flavor redolent of cruciferous vegetables. Moses Sleeper is an incredible snacking cheese – nice with fruit when young and better with savory meats and pickles as it ages.

Moses Sleeper is one of many reasons to celebrate the visionaries and cheesemakers at Jasper Hill Farm who continue to raise the bar for American cheese and radically reshape the landscape of American cheesemaking. We’ve just got a handful of cases, so stop in soon for a taste at either Bi-Rite Market location and join us in the celebration. American Cheese Month has begun!

 


Daphne Zepos Teaching Award

Photo by Chester Higgins, Jr./The New York Times

Photo by Chester Higgins, Jr./The New York Times

Bi-Rite is once again mobilizing to support the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award (DZTA) and we need your help.

Followers of this blog will recall last fall’s announcement of Bi-Rite’s commitment to the funding campaign for the DZTA. Our own Sam Mogannam co-founded the award with a group of cheese retailers and educators from across the country to commemorate and honor Daphne Zepos and her immense contributions to cheese-craft in San Francisco and throughout the wide world of cheese. Daphne co-owned The Cheese School of San Francisco and lived in San Francisco’s Mission District, so the palpable absence left by her death last July has resonated for us professionally and personally. Before she passed, Daphne conceived of an award to help a selected cheese professional travel and share knowledge at the annual American Cheese Society conference, and beginning in 2012 the cheese community has worked to make Daphne’s vision of this award a reality.

L'Amuse Gouda

L’Amuse Gouda

The founders of the Award set an ambitious fund-raising goal of $250,000 by the end of 2012, and Bi-Rite resolved to support this goal with a portion of our cheese sales. These sales, combined with an in-kind donation from Sam himself, allowed Bi-Rite to contribute $5,000 to the campaign. But the effort to commemorate Daphne and her contributions to the cheese-making and cheese-educating community goes on, so this fall we are reigniting our campaign in support of that effort – and by working together with our marvelous cheese vendors and amazing guests, we believe we can exceed our contribution from last year. During October, November and December of 2013, we will donate 25% of our sales of Essex St. Comte and L’Amuse Gouda (both cheeses that Daphne selected, imported and introduced to our selection) to the campaign.

Comte: The first cheese Daphne imported through Essex St., hand-selected from among the 60,000 wheels slowly and coolly aging in the caves at Marcel Petite Fort St. Antoine. Herbaceous, fruity and kissed with deep, heavy cream, it’s delicious in sandwiches or simply served with fruit, nuts or bread.

L’Amuse Gouda: This two-year-old aged Gouda, made at the Cono cheese-making facility in the Netherlands, is a great example of the flavor that comes from aging at a higher temperature (as opposed to a cooler one that suppresses bacterial activity). It’s also a stirring testament to affinage, the art of gracefully bringing a young cheese to mature ripeness.

Essex St. Comte

Essex St. Comte

Since the DZTA campaign began last year, we have opened a second market location on Divisadero Street, and with twice the cheese-selling capacity, we’re excited at the prospect of exceeding our contribution goal. But we still need your help! Please stop by either  of our Market locations to taste these fantastic cheeses. And if you would like to honor the memory of one of the greatest cheese educators in America but can’t make it in to our Markets, please consider donating online. We ensure that 100% of your money, minus credit card fees, will go to the endowment, which is managed by a President and Board of Directors from the cheese industry. All funds are safely invested and their annual returns fund the scholarship.

Thank you for sharing these wonderful cheeses with us, for your continued enthusiasm and support and for helping us to commemorate a great individual and the professional community to which she contributed so much. We’ll see you at the Market!


Baserri – the first of 2013!

CheeseMountainOn a beautiful sunny day recently in West Marin, Marcia Barinaga of Barinaga Ranch welcomed a group of cheesemongers from the Bay Area for a tour and celebration of the release of her first cheeses of 2013.  “It’s not a life that makes you rich, but it’s a good life,” Marcia told us, recalling advice shared by her Basque cousin as she was learning her new craft.

After purchasing a ranch in overlooking Tomales Bay, Marcia and her husband searched for a way to contribute to the agricultural community that become their new home.  With her Basque heritage and a love of sheep, cheesemaking seemed a perfect fit.  Marcia studied cheesemaking in Vermont and in the Pyrenees where a rich history of Basque cheesemaking continues, before starting to experiment with milk from her own herd.

PrettySheepA talented and driven woman, Marcia has a PhD in microbiology and approaches cheesemaking from a seriously scientific standpoint!  Her commitment to quality and attention to detail are remarkable–traits that make her an excellent cheesemaker.  At Barinaga Ranch, the sheep graze on pasture all year long. Marcia has been crossbreeding their East Friesian sheep, which are known for their prolific milk production, with the hardy Katahdin, descendants of North African sheep.  Last year, Marcia really focused on improving the genetics of her herd for higher milk production and quality, and is milking 88 ewes this year.  She milks and makes cheese seasonally, often selling out of the previous year’s cheese before new cheeses from the current season are available.

CheeseStack (2)Our favorite cheese from Marcia is called Baserri, named for the ancient tile-roofed cheesemaking huts in the Pyrenees where Basque herders continue to make cheese in traditional ways.  Baserri is an exquisite raw milk cheese with a rich, nutty flavor.  This year, the first wheels of the season will be released a bit older – at 90 days, rather than at 60 days as they have been in the past.  They’re on the counter at both 18th Street and Divisadero Markets and are refreshing and lively! Swing by for a taste.


Matt R.

Independence Day Wine and Cheese Picks

Wine4th1Happy 4th of July! The quintessential American holiday is here, and that calls for quintessentially American wines and cheeses!

On the wine front, we’re featuring Zinfandel, an iconic grape in America; the U.S. is one of the only countries that makes wine out of it in significant volume. While this grape originated in Croatia and made its way to California by way of gold rush-driven immigrants, it remains here (and in pockets of Southern Italy) as a lone star among countless French varietals.

On the cheese side, we’re featuring a grab-and-go basket trio of Red, White, and Blue American Cheeses! Perfectly portioned and carefully curated, this basket makes the perfect host or hostess gift, picnic treat, or easy DIY cheese course for entertaining!

Come see us at either Market to grab everything you’ll need to have a decadent Independence Day! (Both Markets close at 6PM on July 4th.) 

2009 Unti Vineyards Zinfandel  –  $25.99
Unti1
Unti’s wines are a staple on our shelves and for good reason. Their biodynamically farmed vineyards in Dry Creek Valley grow mostly Rhone and Italian varietals, but their Zinfandel is a favorite of ours as well. We have the last few cases of the 2009 vintage – a great one for Zin in Dry Creek! Lush plum and subtle spice qualities lead to a weighty but well-balanced palate. This is a Zin that’s sure to handle anything coming off the grill!

Cheesebasket1Bi-Rite’s American Cheese Trio  –  $19.99
Our pre-selected trio of Red, White, and Blue American cheeses is cut, packed, and ready to go for your Independence Day celebration. This cute basket includes the following:

Red: Cowgirl Creamery Wagon Wheel – Cowgirl Creamery’s homage to the great mountain cheeses of France and Switzerland, this washed rind cheese is made from pasteurized Straus Dairy cow’s milk. Its natural washed rind is the lightest red-pink hue and the paste is semi-firm with brown butter and caramel notes. It’s great on a cheese plate, but melts beautifully as well to top burgers or pizza!

White: Andante Fresh Goat Cheese – Soyoung Scanlan has become a cheese icon in the Bay Area for the magic she works with fresh goat’s milk. All the goat’s milk she uses is pasteurized and sourced from Volpi Ranch in Petaluma. Her fresh goat cheese rounds are the ultimate expression of this high quality milk. Light, tangy, floral, and complex, this cheese hardly needs any accompaniment other than a crusty baguette.

Blue: Point Reyes Farmstead Bay Blue  – Point Reyes Farmstead, near Tomales Bay, first released Bay Blue last fall and it has quickly gained a following, even winning a Good Food Award. The recipe is inspired by English Stilton, and this natural-rinded blue is rich in flavor and perfect alongside dried fruit or drizzled with honey.

Upcoming Tastings at 18 Reasons

18th Hour Cafe – Every Thursday, 6-10PM, Drop-In

Tasting Seminar with Pamela Busch: The New California – Tuesday, July 23, 7-9PM, Ticketed

Tasting Seminar with Pamela Busch: The New France – Tuesday, July 30, 7-9PM, Ticketed


Spanish and Portuguese Cheeses: Beyond Manchego

Abrigo2This is always the time of year when I start to crave heat: the calendar says June, and I’m itching for sunshine, warm nights, and spaghetti straps. Living in the reality of summer in San Francisco, I’m vicariously enjoying the heat as we celebrate Spanish and Portuguese cheeses this month at the Market.  Many of you know (and love!) Manchego, but the Iberian Peninsula’s cheese offerings are so richly diverse, why stop there?  Come taste a few of our featured cheeses this month.

Valdeon is a mixed milk blue cheese, made with cow and goat milk, and oh-so-Spanish!  It’s beautifully wrapped, and begging for either a savory tomato salad or a drizzle of something sweet like honey or fig jam. I admit, mixed milk cheeses pull on my heart strings, and the Tres Leches is a fantastic blend of goat, sheep, and cow milk that’s interesting and easy to enjoy before dinner.

Roncal2For those who prefer a pure sheep milk cheese, check out Roncal, Spain’s first DOP cheese, and one I think of as Manchego’s more austere and reserved cousin.

campodevareVare is an equally lovely first cheese made of goat’s milk and balanced between sweet and tangy notes. Gardunha is classic Portuguese – rather than traditional animal rennet, a thistle flower is used as a coagulant. This imparts a distinct vegetal quality to this goat cheese; a fun contrast to its unctuous texture.

And though cow’s milk cheeses make up a minority of Spanish cheeses, Mahon Reserva is a treat with a little bit of bite!


Double Dutch: A Tale of Two Remeker Cheeses

We just cracked two wheels of Remeker, our favorite Dutch cheese, and couldn’t be happier! Our Remeker comes from Jan Dirk in Gelderland, in the eastern Netherlands. This very special farmstead gouda is made from the milk of his beautiful herd of Jersey cows (they still have their horns!). Jan is as enthusiastic about soil health and worms as he is about great cheese; he began farming biodynamically in 2004. Focused on achieving balance with his land and animals, the quality of the rich raw milk (something of a rarity among Dutch cheeses)  is a testament to his cheesemaking success!

olde remekerWheels are pressed for 24 hours, and then brined for 36 hours (about half the time of many goudas) before maturation on the farm. Some wheels are released young, between 9-11 months, while others are aged 18 months or more.  Which would you prefer: the bright, egg-yolk savory quality of a younger cheese, or the deep hazelnut and burnt caramel notes of the aged? Either way, it’s a stunning cheese, but do come in for a taste and decide for yourself.  And remember: age really does matter!

 


Cooking with Curds: Radishes à la Français

au3My French host-grandmother blew me away one afternoon many years ago when she appeared at the dinner table with a plate of radishes. She then introduced the simplest of pleasures when she showed me how to eat radishes “à la Français,” which is to say cut, stuffed with sweet cream butter, and then dipped in sea salt. The magical combination of these three ingredients is still something I look forward to every spring!  For a variation on the theme, I’ve made a compound butter with Fourme D’Ambert, one of my favorite blue cheeses, to add a savory zip to sweet cream butter, and create a perfect contrast to crunchy, spicy radishes!

Ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

4oz Fourme D’Ambert, trimmed of rind

Salt and white pepper to taste

1 bunch radishes (French breakfast are the best for their long shape)

 

Instructions

Add softened butter and Fourme D’Ambert to mixing bowl and mash together with a fork until the butter and the blue cheese are well integrated.

Season with salt and white pepper to taste, and mix again.

Scrape butter into ramekin (or other fun shaped dish) to chill for an hour.

Meanwhile, wash and trim radishes.

With a paring knife, cut an X into the bottom of each radish and serve alongside chilled butter.

Stuff each radish with blue cheese butter in the middle of the X and enjoy!

*****

Au revoir, French Cheese Month….bring on the Belgian and Dutch cheeses we have in store for May!